Overcoming Complacency

C’mon, let’s be honest with ourselves…we’ve all been there, right? We feel really comfortable with the way things are or have always been, that our workdays consist of simply going through the motions. So what’s wrong with just going through the motions? Sure, we get our jobs done and tackle our to-do lists with urgency fulfilling our employee/employer obligation. But the reality is that complacency can have serious consequences.

Chance are we won’t avoid complacency entirely in our lives. But, we can educate ourselves on how to identify the warning signs and solutions. Depending on the industry and occupation, complacency in our work life can lead to poor customer services, serious or life-threatening injuries and an overall lack of initiative. Perhaps, even more alarming, is that complacency in our personal lives can be even more detrimental. The aftereffects of complacency in our personal lives can result in broken relationships, sensing a lack of purpose, animosity towards others or even yourself.

I thrive on comfort, routine and predictability. I am a creature of habit and I know it! Understanding who we are can help us identify our own tendencies towards complacent behaviors. I know that I have a tendency to linger in my comfort zone, so I intentionally challenge myself to explore new experiences and opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, comfortable still feels safe, but “without fear there cannot be courage,” –Christopher Paolini.

5 Tips to Help You Identify and Overcome Complacency

  1. You Find Yourself Becoming Ambivalent or Envious of Others:
    • It’s entirely normal to feel a bit envious when those around us our recognized for excellent work or outstanding accomplishments, after all, we are all human. And although you may not be able to prevent those twinges of jealousy, you can do something about it. This is an excellent opportunity to take stock of your own accomplishments. Ask yourself, are you living up to your own expectations? If not, take some time to figure out what you need to do to make it happen and then do it!
  2. Every Day is the Same:
    • Routines are absolutely necessary, especially to individuals who are attempting to juggle careers, school and families, along with normal day to day tasks. On the other hand, routines can suffocate inspiration and the discovery of new and amazing experiences. Challenge yourself to try something new once a week or even every month… don’t let unique opportunities pass you by.
  3. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’:
    • The spark that you once felt when you thought about your career trajectory or a personal relationship was undeniable. Has that spark burnt out? Have you lost that lovin’ feelin’? Great news, you can get it back! Think back to the beginning and remember what it was that provoked such ambition and passion in the first place. In my career, it was the people, it’s always been the people. When I take time to remember who I’m helping and the positive impact I can make in the world, that spark ignites.
  4. Predictability and Complacency:
    • I am “that” co-worker who has to park in the same parking spot EVERY day. Most of my co-workers humor me by leaving the spot open each morning, but every once in a while, I’ll pull into the parking lot and there is a vehicle in “my” spot! My immediate reaction is anxiety peppered in with a little irritation.  We are creatures of habit and as a result become quite predictable. That’s ok! It’s when your predictable behaviors begin to stifle your intellectual and social growth, that it can be a sign of complacency. Try implementing several small changes that together can make a big difference. Maybe I’ll even try a different parking spot (ok, maybe not that).
  5. Fear Controls You: 
    • Some of us have allowed fear to shape our decisions and to hold us back from opportunities. Living entirely without fear is ideal, yet unrealistic at the same time. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” If you find yourself snuggled safe and sound in your comfort zone it may be time to step into your courage, move past your fears and start living your life.  

Debra Fox is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a Business Marketing Specialist with Iowa Workforce Development. She partners with employers, community agencies and economic development professionals to promote employability programs and large scale workforce initiatives to eligible stakeholders. Before taking this role Debra worked as an HR professional in the private sector. Her passion to serve others has been a driving force throughout her career. Debra is a coordinator for the Employers’ Council of Iowa. She is a national and local SHRM, CHCSEIA and NAWDP member. She holds a dual degree from Iowa Wesleyan University in Psychology and Sociology, along with PHR and SHRM-CP certifications.

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Avatar photo Mark Hensch

Fantastic blog Debra! The tip that spoke most to me is the one about routines. It’s important to find a balance between stability and complacency.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I’m glad to hear that you were able to relate and I couldn’t agree more in regards to finding a balance. Take care!

Stephanie Smith

These five tips you make the lists that identify me that I can related to the issues that we can deal with it if we submit something that require us to take our timely step to be accomplishment after face the challenge we struggled to pull through the goal we pursue to the top of the level.